I'm writing a book based, in part, on my Master's thesis. Since it's going to be a commercial book, and since there's a chance the subject is actually fascinating, I can't talk about too many details.
Next, the Rocket Ship Company submitted a copyright notice to the US Copyright Office. Meanwhile, the Rocket Ship Company didn't notice that the Famous Director had put a copyright notice ("copyright (c)Famous Director") under the title of the movie - - right *in* the movie!
Later on (but still back in the 1970s) the Not Very Famous Museum decided to toss the movie (and all materials related to the movie) into a dumpster. The only existing, complete copy of the film resided at the Library of Congress vault in Culpepper, Virginia.
Decades fly by, and now it's 2012, and I want to get a digital copy of this Library of Congress copy of the movie to finish writing my book. In order to get a copy of this movie (by a Famous Director), I'll have to pay several hundred dollars for a transfer to HD video. But FIRST... I have to determine: who holds the copyright?
Turns out there are agencies in and around the Copyright Office who handle this kind of stuff. So I hired a copyright private eye to figure it all out.
Here are the possible scenarios:
1) The film has no parents - so it's an orphaned film in the public domain (best thing evarrr!)
2) The Rocket Ship Company holds the copyright - could be okay, because I know some people who run the Rocket Ship Company's museum and maybe they'll sign a quitclaim for me. Hooray!
3) The estate of the Famous Director (in this case, a University library) - could be HUGE trouble, because the folks who work at the University archive think everything the Famous Director made must be worth MILLIONS, I tell ya! MILLIONS! (possible worst-case scenario).
4) Not Very Famous Museum holds the copyright - unlikely (they never filed with the Copyright Office) but if they get ownership, it's going to be a big problem because nobody, and I mean NOBODY there understands the slightest thing about quitclaims or intellectual property or making decisions about stuff they didn't know they had. I think I worry about this one more than Option 3.
So, hopefully I'll have a handle on this by Friday. If not, it'll be a very long weekend.